In the last week there have been two minor bits of news that have got me fuming. The first was a secondary school’s announcement that it was introducing a gender neutral school uniform. In other words all the students, male, female and gender-fluid, would have to wear the same outfit of trousers, shirt and, I think, blazer and tie. They said this was to be inclusive to transgender students. I don’t think they actually asked any pupils for their opinions or ideas before making the decision, perhaps they did, but I doubt it. The point is that the uniform is not gender neutral, it is male. Now, girls often wear trousers and a shirt but I doubt whether all girls want to wear trousers and a shirt all the time. I’ll come back to that in moment.
The second item was the “Christian” mother and father who withdrew their “confused” six year old son from a C of E primary school because the school had allowed another pupil who had been classed as a boy to wear a dress. It’s not clear whether the gender-variant pupil was making a permanent change from male to female or was taking it day to day. In this case the school was following the law of the UK, following the 2010 Equality Act, recognising that gender is not dependent on what bits you have between your legs and giving transgender people the same rights as every one else. Secondly the C of E recently adopted, at last, an inclusive and welcoming attitude to transgendered people of all ages. The critical parents have no cause to complain about the school’s action and if they want to lock their child away from an inclusive and diverse society they can home-school him. I fear for their child. The other child I hope will continue to receive support from his school, parents and peers.
What irritates me is that both cases show people just not getting this gender thing. If a school really wants to have a gender neutral uniform policy then allow all students to wear what they like within a set list of trousers, skirts (or dresses), shirts, blouses, and whatever else is deemed necessary. The clothes themselves are not gender specific; it is people that make stereotypical assumptions about what people wear. There is nothing about a skirt that makes it exclusively female other than preconceptions. Also of course, gender identity isn’t just about clothes, but that’s a longer story.
Gender stereotypes are not only discriminatory to those who identify with a gender that does not match their physical attributes. They also have a negative effect on boys and girls generally. 99% of boys are happy being boys and probably never think about their gender. The same applies to 99% of girls. But stereotypical attitudes such as girls are weak, cannot do maths, while boys are boisterous and don’t do emotions, hold back boys’ and girls’ development in many different areas. I would advocate removing all stereotypical gender clues from homes, schools, everywhere in fact, and let children’s gender identity grow naturally. The result may be more rounded characters of boys and girls, and more toleration of those that are different to the 99%.
Next Saturday I will at another Bookfair, once again offering my Jasmine Frame and September Weekes books for sale at very generous prices. Come and have a look around Sandbach.
And finally, we’ve reached the final episode of Viewpoint, chronologically the last prequel before Painted Ladies. Comments welcome.
Viewpoint: Part 14
DC Kingston looked blank for a moment, then nodded.
‘I see. Stay here. Taylor’s in the next room, but when Tom and Terry have finished talking to him they may send him back to the cells. I’ll be back soon.’ He turned and left the room leaving Jasmine sitting with a cold cup of coffee and cold slice of toast. She ate the toast.
Almost half an hour passed and Jasmine was fidgeting with boredom. At last the door opened and Derek entered.
‘We’ve got response teams looking for your Harold up and down the canal. Tom and Terry have just finished Taylor’s interrogation. He didn’t answer any of their questions. The custody officer is going to take him, back to the cell in a minute or two. Come and stand in the corridor.’
Jasmine got up and followed her colleague. They stood a few feet along from the door into the other interview room. The moments passed and Jasmine wondered what she should say to Taylor.
A burly uniformed officer passed them and opened the door. A few seconds later, Kevin Taylor emerged. He looked more dishevelled than before, with another day’s growth of beard and heavy eyes.
Jasmine stepped into his path. He stopped and looked at her without registering recognition.
‘I didn’t meet Alfie, but I know what he went through,’ Jasmine began.
‘Don’ know an Alfie,’ Taylor recited like a well-rehearsed refrain.
‘You called him Lucy, but he’d never been your daughter. You knew it, really. Before he left you beat him for saying he was a boy and making himself look masculine.’
Taylor stared at her, not responding, but his eyelids flickered.
Jasmine went on. ‘When he went to Weymouth he got help. He managed to have his breasts removed. But it wasn’t because he was trans. Do you know why he was able to get it done?’
Taylor stood impassive but his head almost moved from side to side.
‘It was because of his mother, your wife, who had supported him. Alfie had her genes and had a high risk of getting breast cancer. So, they gave him the mastectomy that helped him become the man he knew himself to be. But you, his only remaining parent, denied him.’
‘He wasn’t my girl,’ Taylor blurted.
‘Not your girl, but the same person he’d always been. The child of you and your wife, left in your care after his mother died.’
‘It was a bloke that appeared on my doorstep. He said he was my son. I told him I only had a daughter.’
‘He wanted your help. A father’s help.’
Taylor cried out. ‘He wasn’t my girl.’
‘He was the same person,’ Jasmine repeated.
‘She’d had things done to her. Like my darling Rosie. It made me angry to see how she’d changed.’
‘So angry that you had to get rid of him?’
‘Riley said he’d see to her.’
‘He took him away, kept him prisoner, hurt him. You gave your son to two heartless thugs who thought they could have their sadistic fun with someone they barely thought of as human, because you had rejected him. They beat him, raped him, killed him.’
Jasmine saw Taylor’s eyes widening in horror.
‘I didn’t mean them to kill her,’ he appealed. ‘I didn’t know what Riley and Owen were like. When he told me that Lucy was dead I didn’t know what to think.’
‘But they had to get rid of the body so you helped them.’
‘I didn’t know what else I could do.’
‘You helped them put the bodyin the back of your car and drove it to the canal.’
‘And dumped the body of your son in the water.’
Taylor raised his hands to his face and sobbed. ‘Yes.’
Derek Kingston stepped forward and took Taylor’s arm. ‘I think we’d better go back into the interview room, Mr Taylor. Perhaps you will answer some questions now that we’ve heard you admit to helping dispose of your son’s body. Maybe you’d like the solicitor that you refused earlier.’
Taylor, shrunken, with tears streaking his grubby cheeks, nodded, and was led by the custody officer back into the interview room.
Derek turned to Jasmine. ‘Thanks. We got our breakthrough. Why don’t you go down to the canteen and get a fresh coffee.’
Jasmine nodded and trudged off reluctantly. She wanted to complete the job and get Taylor’s signed statement admitting his part in Alfie’s death, but she accepted that she wasn’t going to be given that opportunity.
She sat alone at a table, with a steaming mug of instant coffee, munching a soggy sausage roll. The canteen was quiet at this time of day, just a few officers and civilians chatting on their break. The canteen wasn’t very cheery but it was a place of refuge from the often-frenzied work taking place on the floors above. She took a sip of coffee thinking it would probably be the last time she would have to drink the not very palatable fluid.
‘Derek said he’d sent you down here.’
Jasmine looked up to see Tom standing over her. ‘Hi, Tom.’
‘Sloane asked me to find you. He wants to see you.’
Jasmine put her mug down. Another coffee that would turn cold. She stood up. ‘Okay then. I don’t suppose he wants to congratulate me.’
‘You did get us a result, Jas. Derek said how you got Taylor to break down. That was great work.’
‘I was letting my feelings out, that’s all. I just wanted that chance to tell him about his son, making him see that Alfie was the same person as Lucy. The little girl he thought he had brought up had become a young man. Unfortunately, a depressed and disappointed young man.’
‘Well, however you did it, Taylor is now answering questions and with the evidence we’ve got and a witness statement from your mate Harold, we’ve found him by the way, the case against Riley and Owen is wrapped up.’
They climbed the stairs to the V&SCU office. The main room was empty but the door to Sloane’s own office was open.
‘You’d better go in,’ Tom said, urging Jasmine forward. She crossed the room and tapped on the door before stepping into the inner sanctum of Sloane’s domain. He looked up from the pile of files he had in front of him.
‘Ah, Frame.’ His nose creased as his eyes took in Jasmine’s tights, skirt, bosom and lipstick. Jasmine stood in front of his desk not surprised that she was not invited to sit down.
‘I understand that the body in the canal case is all but completed,’ the DCI said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied wondering what was coming next.
‘So, you can go home and resume your final leave prior to the termination of your employment at the end of the month,’ Sloane continued.
Sloane sniffed and drew in a breath. ‘I am sorry that this is the conclusion of our acquaintance.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine found herself stuck in a rut of affirmatives with nothing else to say.
Sloane hadn’t finished however. ‘When you joined this unit, Frame, I had high hopes for you and indeed at first you showed that you had the potential to be a fine detective. But, this change you’ve undergone, are, um, undergoing, has unbalanced you. You have become insubordinate, impetuous, careless of your safety, and have placed responsibilities on your colleagues. That is not good in a member of a team, so while I am sad to lose an officer I think you have made this parting inevitable.’
Jasmine felt her cheeks beginning to flush. ‘Please, Sir, may I say something.’
Sloane’s eyebrows rose in surprise. ‘Yes, of course, Frame.’
She summoned the words for what she felt. ‘The Police Force has been very helpful concerning my transition, Sir, but I don’t think my senior officers in this unit have been so understanding. I was side-lined and left to do the in-office tasks instead of joining in other aspects of investigations. Jobs which I had shown I had an aptitude for. Even in this case, DS Palmerston ignored the information that I supplied regarding the victim.’
Sloane puffed out his cheeks. ‘DS Palmerston has been a very successful senior investigating officer. In fact, I recommended her for promotion to Detective Inspector and as a result she is moving to another post, in Warwickshire, I believe.’
‘Palmerston is leaving?’ Jasmine said, feeling simultaneously victorious and disappointed.
‘Yes. It means I have two places to fill – one for a DS and one a DC. But that won’t concern you Frame. I understand you are becoming a private detective.’ His nose and mouth creased with disdain. ‘I hope you are successful in your new career.’
‘I will be, DCI Sloane, I will be.’ Jasmine turned on her heels and strode out. She passed Tom as she crossed the office.
‘Oh, Jas,’ he called, ‘here are your car keys.’ He held out the Fiesta’s key fob. She took it.
‘I hope she starts okay. Derek had a bit of trouble last night bringing her back.’
‘She’s temperamental, Tom.’
‘Like her owner.’ Tom’s voice dropped to a whisper, ‘I heard you having a go at Sloane about Denise. I didn’t know she was leaving.’
‘Well, there you are Tom, your chance to get your Detective Sergeant post. Good luck.’
She walked out of the office, waving goodbye to Tom and her career as a police officer.